The Ethics of Vaccination During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Justin Bernstein

Course Description

Mass vaccination is generally our most effective defense against infectious diseases, and this pandemic is no different. The rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has been an extraordinary accomplishment. Yet, while these vaccines give us cause for hope, they also raise a distinctive set of ethical questions. Some of these questions have become all-too-familiar: how should we allocate vaccines when demand outstrips supply—should we prioritize by age, occupation, or some other set of considerations? Other questions, by contrast, will become more pressing as we attempt to immunize enough people for herd immunity. For instance, do governments or private employers have the right to require various professionals, or even citizens generally, to get vaccinated? Should they implement “vaccine passports”—essentially, requiring proof of vaccination in order to access various goods and services—as we reopen society and try to return to normal? Bernstein will draw on his published work and research in progress to address these issues.

About the Instructor

  • Justin Bernstein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, writes about topics in political philosophy, bioethics, and the intersection of the two. Recently, Bernstein has focused especially on various ethical issues relating to public health.

Upcoming programs presented by Justin Bernstein.

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